2010 March 8: MN Rochester: Rochester, Minnesota pollution alert — can you breathe…?

2010 March 8: MN Rochester: Rochester, Minnesota pollution alert — can you breathe…?

Rochester, Minnesota remains under an "air pollution health alert." 
"The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has extended the air pollution health alert issued for the Twin Cities and Rochester for Monday, March 8, through Tuesday, March 9,"
the MPCA says.
"Dense fog overnight, which aids in fine particle production, and calm winds, have allowed fine particle concentrations to build to levels considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Fine particle levels are expected to gradually fall this afternoon as the fog dissipates," the MPCA says. "However, calm winds and high relative humidity will continue to trap pollutants, keeping air quality conditions unhealthy for sensitive groups. As winds become more easterly on Tuesday, additional pollutants will be transported into the region, which is expected to lead to unhealthy for sensitive group conditions in the Twin Cities and Rochester, and high-moderate conditions across much of Minnesota."
Tony Benson, communications coordinator with Rochester Public Utilities said plant operation in the city has "been substantially lower than in past years." Coal-burning power plants can add particulate matter to the air. RPU’s decreased production might make it appear pollution levels should decrease.
But Rochester has had air ratings with moderate pollution to "unhealthy for sensitive groups" for much of February.
People with heart disease, young children, the elderly and people participating in heavy exertion "are the most sensitive to elevated levels of air pollution," the MPCA says.
Exposure to fine particulate matter can "cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or coughing and fatigue, even after air quality has improved" because the particles are breathed deeply into the lungs.
"If you experience these symptoms, contact your physician. Even individuals who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when air pollution increases," the MPCA says.
Help reduce pollution by, the agency says, by carpooling, combining trips, avoiding letting your vehicle idle and find alternate transportation. Also, avoid burning wood and reduce energy consumption.
Benson said, even though the RPU plant only probably has one generator online today (Monday, March 8, 2010) to provide steam to Mayo Clinic, electric generation and automobiles still put pollutants into the air and it’s "an alarming trend that we don’t like."
RPU recently invested $38 million to reduce airborne pollutants, Benson said. 
"We’re doing everything we can on our end, but there’s so many other factors that go into it," he said.  For example, weather plays a role.  The fog this morning helped keep the particulate matter in the area, the MPCA says.  
And pollution can travel into Minnesota from other states. 

Pulse on Health

By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists

Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 

Twitter Hansel’s Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

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